iPhone 6 full review: Solid and sturdy to the touch, stunning to the eye

Tech specs

Price: $998 (16GB), $1,148 (64GB), $1,288 (128GB); all without contract Processor: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture, M8 motion co-processor Operating system: iOS 8 Screen: 4.7-inch Retina HD display; 1,334 x 750 pixels Camera: 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel front camera Weight: 129g

Apple has ​hitherto been ​adamant​ that people should be able to use iPhones with one hand. So it has stuck to 3.5-inch and 4-inch displays.

But Android smartphones, with their bigger-is-better ethos, have undoubtedly attracted some iPhone users. Will the launch of the iPhone 6 (and iPhone 6 Plus) reel them back in?

The new iPhone 6 features a 4.7-inch Retina HD display with a screen resolution of 1,334 x 750 pixels and a pixel density of 326 pixel per inch (pip). The screen is essentially 720p or high-definition (HD) quality.

In addition, the liquid crystals in the new display have been precisely positioned for better viewing experience with deeper blacks and sharper text.

Also, the display has dual-domain pixels to ensure colour accuracy from corner to corner for a wider viewing angle. The display even has an improved built-in polariser, so you can see the screen better when you are outdoors in the sun.

All I know is the new display looks really sharp. I can also see very little colour or brightness shift when I view the display from the sides. Even when you are outdoors in the sun, you can still see the display clearly.

Other than the bigger display, the iPhone 6 gets a design overhaul as well with more rounded edges.

You still get the Home button with Touch ID sensor in front, but the front glass panel is now curved around the sides and seamlessly joins the rounded edges of the anodised aluminium shell.

The rear sheds the two-colour tone of its predecessors and dons a more uniform colour. Only the antenna bands are coloured slightly differently.

The Sleep/Wake button is now moved to the right side of iPhone 6 for easier access with your right thumb. The volume controls shed the round buttons of iPhone 5s to become more elongated like those found in iPad Air.

At only 6.9mm thick, the iPhone 6 is also much thinner than iPhone 5s, which is 7.6mm thick. However, that thinness mean the rear camera's lens is slightly protruded, just like the fifth-generation iPod touch. When you lay it flat on a table, there is slight tilting when you press on the screen. But it is nothing major to annoy you.

With the changes in button layout and its thinness, the iPhone 6 feels so much more sleek and comfortable than its predecessors, when you hold the iPhone 6 in your hands. Yet, it feels solid and sturdy with none of the plastic feel of some Android smartphones.

With the bigger display, there is now an extra row of icons available. To help you navigate better with one hand, Apple introduced a feature called Readability whereby you double tap the Home button to move the screen down so you can reach the top icons. This applies to any screen.

Plus, the new display allows for Zoomed mode, which makes icons, messages and emails bigger to make viewing easier.

I found the iPhone 6 fits well in the side pockets of my working pants and weekend bermudas. But I think you should not be putting this iPhone in your back pockets.

Next: Camera, Speed and Battery life

The camera retained its 8-megapixel image sensor and True Tone dual-LED flash of its predecessor. The lack of increase in megapixels might be a good thing, as having more megapixels sometimes add more image noise to picture.

More importantly, the camera now uses focus pixels or phase detection autofocusing (AF) found in DSLR cameras. In iPhone 6's case, it has digital image stabiliser to prevent camera shake.

I found the AF to be much faster than the iPhone 5s, but not as quick as the iPhone 6 Plus. Plus, when shooting videos, the intelligent AF is able to lock on focus of the main subject instead of searching about for focus.

In addition, you can now shoot slow motion videos in 240 frames per second (fps), instead of 120fps previously in iPhone 5s. So, you can get more dramatic slow motion videos.

Image quality is superior than its predecessors. Pictures look sharper with crisp details even in the darker areas.

With an upgraded 64-bit A8 chip, the iPhone 6 feels faster when you start up apps or browse the Internet or look through photos and videos.

In the Geekbench 3 benchmark tests, which showed iPhone 6 to have a dual-core 1.39GHz ARM processor with 988MB of system memory, iPhone 6 scored 1,625 (single-core) and 2,921 (multi-core). The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 scored 947 and 2,978 respectively.

In real life instances, while it has taken 20sec to load Infinity Blade III in iPhone 5s, it took only 8.7sec to load up the game in iPhone 6. The graphics look fantastic with nice and clean textures of the characters and environment.

Playing games, such as Bioshock, Knights of the Old Republic or NBA 2K14, is also smooth and fluid. However, the graphics of these games are not as good-looking. They probably need an update to fully utilise the power of A8 processor.

There is also a new M8 co-processor, which measures motion data from the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and a new barometer. So, sport apps can use this co-processor instead of the main A8 processor saving energy and valuable processor power. And now, with the new barometer, it can calculate how many flights of stairs you take.

The iPhone 6 comes with the new iOS 8, and there are several upgrades over iOS 7. One of the upgrades is the built-in predictive keyboard. It is great in predicting the text I want to type, making it faster for me to type messages or emails.

With iPhone 6's 20 4G LTE bands, you can practically go anywhere in the world and be connected to 4G networks. Voice calls are also great with no drop in connections.

Apple did not specify the capacity of iPhone 6's battery, but it is supposed to have 14hr of talk time on 3G and a standby time of up to 10 days.

During my usage, I found that the battery life ​was still only down to 50 per cent by late afternoon ​despite ​frequent viewing of Facebook and Instagram updates, checking of emails, and sending of Whatsapp messages. Of course, your mileage might vary.

In our intensive battery life test, it lasted 6hr 55min looping a 720p video at full brightness and full volume with Wi-Fi on. This is around only 10min longer than iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 6 ​may cost slightly more than some flagship Android models. But generally, their build quality does not approach, much less match that of the iPhone 6.

Verdict: For those who​ would​ ​not use two hands to work an iPhone, the iPhone 6 is the one to get. If you prefer a bigger display, there is always the iPhone 6 Plus.

Rating Features 5/5 Design 5/5 Performance 5/5 Battery life 3/5 Value for money 4/5 Overall 4/5

This article was first published on September 17, 2014. Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.